Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Endangered species and how we can help

Tofa is a language spoken by nomads in the Eastern Sayan mountains of southern Siberia. To be precise, it's spoken by exactly 25 nomads, all of them old and unlikely to live much longer. When they die, Tofa dies with them. Languages are dying out at an unnerving rate, but what makes the loss of Tofa particularly poignant is that it possesses the suffix -sig, meaning 'to smell like.'

We can't do anything to keep the entire language alive, but I suggest we make a concerted effort to help such a charming and unique linguistic creature survive a little longer. It isn't hard. You walk into a room that smells of, say, socks, or your grossly obese ex-boss. You sniff, you pull a face, you turn to your companion and murmur: socks-sig or grossly obese ex-boss-sig.

You see? It's easy. And that way you'll have done your bit to keep this unparalleled linguistic item breathing for a few more years.

After which, the deluge. Hmm. Sewage-sig.

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